Used for many years in industry and construction for its electrical insulation and fireproofing properties, asbestos is now recognised as a highly hazardous substance. Inhaling its fibres is known to cause mesothelioma, a form of cancer primarily affecting the lungs. For that reason, the handling of asbestos in buildings and other situations is well-regulated and must be carried out by fully qualified specialists. Failure to comply with asbestos regulations in the UK can incur significant penalties and is a severe health risk.
Who Is Responsible For Asbestos Management?
In UK legislation, the safe and responsible asbestos management is primarily the responsibility of the owners and occupiers of commercial buildings. The ‘duty to manage’ requires the duty holder to determine the extent and nature of asbestos in the building, document and assess the risks, and ensure that those working on or using the building are kept safe.
If a contractor is working on a site with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), the duty to manage falls on them rather than the owner. They will therefore be in breach of their duty if they knowingly carry out work that disturbs asbestos and risks exposure to workers or residents of a property.
UK Asbestos Legislation
First introduced in 2006 and updated in 2012, the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) specify the safe handling of asbestos in the UK. They include the duty to manage legislation as well as a greater emphasis on asbestos training for UK contractors.
The duty to manage stipulates that any asbestos in a building must be located and documented, noting its type and condition. Risks are to be managed and controlled. If the materials are in a good condition, they may be left in situ. However, any work that risks exposure must be carefully monitored, and removal can only be carried out by a licensed contractor.
Consequences For Non-compliance
For those found to be in breach of CAR due to the unsafe management of asbestos, the possible outcomes include large fines and even prison sentences. Duty holders without adequate management plans can face penalties of a fine of up to £20,000 or up to six months imprisonment. More serious breaches could incur unlimited fines and two-year prison sentences.
For example, in 2022, Ensure Asbestos Management was found to have breached the Health and Safety at Work Act. By deliberately cutting corners with asbestos management during a department store refurbishment, they put their workers at risk, as well as threatening others with contact with contaminated materials. The consequences for this breach included a £100,000 fine, plus jail sentences for the director and contracts manager.
Talk To An Expert
OMC Consultants have established expertise in asbestos management and safety compliance. To find out how we can help keep your buildings and operations safe, please get in touch with our team today.
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